A new set of immigration restrictions by the Trump White House set off confusion and anxiety in Minnesota Monday among people whose lives it would most directly affect.
The new executive order issued Sunday night bans most travel from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, as well as for some high-ranking officials from Venezuela. It also calls for additional scrutiny of Iraqi citizens attempting to enter the U.S., but does not bar them entirely. The new measures do not expire, and take full effect Oct. 18.
The order’s inclusion of Somalia targets one of Minnesota’s fastest growing immigrant populations, leaving people like St. Cloud resident Suud Olat to fear for people like his half brother, who still lives in a refugee camp and has been attempting to emigrate for six years.
“You can’t just shut the door on those people,” said Olat, who urged President Trump to travel to the camp to meet the people hoping to escape war-torn Somalia.
The order was released just as an earlier temporary ban was set to expire. The new ban may draw legal challenges, but it’s too soon to tell what will eventually happen, said Somali immigration attorney Abdinasir Abdulahi.
“It’s still early and we’re still trying to figure out what all this means,” said Abdulahi, of the AMA Law Group.
He predicted that some of the same questions that arose from Trump’s earlier immigration orders — such as which relatives may be allowed to join their American grandchildren, spouses or parents already living here — will require court decisions.
The immigration order does not address refugee resettlement, which President Trump has threatened to cut in half from about 100,000 people annually to 50,000. Refugee resettlement officials at organizations such as the International Institute of Minnesota said they’re expecting another presidential order will soon clarify how many refugees the U.S. will accept.
Some thought that the arrival of the new federal fiscal year Oct. 1 would spur the federal government to decide, said Micaela Schuneman, director of refugee services at the International Institute.
Kara Lynum, a St. Paul attorney who helped immigrants whose lives were upended by Trump’s first wave of immigration orders, said it’s unlikely that the new measures will create the same kind of airport chaos seen earlier this year.
“This will come down to visa issuance,” she said. “Anyone who doesn’t have a visa as of Oct. 18 won’t even be allowed on the plane.”
The new measure has some provisions that allow relatives from Somalia and the other banned countries to emigrate, but Lynum said she expects to see many of those cases put into a status known as “administrative processing,” or what she called a “background check that has no end.”
The result could delay the reunification of families for months or even years, she said.
Still, it’s hard to know what the ramifications of the new order will become, said Ben Walen, director of refugee services at the Minnesota Council of Churches.
“The faith communities that are part of our organization are very eager to welcome refugees,” he said. “We are open and willing and ready to welcome newcomers to our communities and help them rebuild their lives here. We’re advocating that our government allow that to happen.”
Mustafa Diriye, a St. Paul community activist, said he’s worried for a cousin who has been living in a refugee camp with four daughters, one of whom is disabled with partial paralysis from a stroke.
The cousin, in her 50s, fled the war in Yemen and was already facing a difficult vetting process to join family members in the U.S.
“It’s devastating for us and for her, too,” said Diriye.